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Four Before and After Projects


Nothing inspires a water garden lover like great before-and-after pictures! These are some of our favorites, as they show how a water garden can transform your space.

Want to see your water feature on our blog? Just email your photos and story to heather@markthepondguy.com.

Is Your Pond Eco-Friendly?


Ecosystem ponds can be easy to understand if you have a good grasp of what components go into a basic, functioning ecosystem. An ecosystem pond works with Mother Nature to provide food, shelter, and safety to the wildlife around it. It also provides you with an all-natural, low-maintenance piece of paradise. It’s important to remember, however, that every piece of the ecosystem puzzle must be present in order for a true ecosystem to be in place. Eliminate one of these elements and you’ve got an unbalanced ecosystem that won’t be so low-maintenance anymore. Check out the things you’ll need to get your ecosystem pond fired up:

Circulation System is really just a fancy way of saying “pumps and plumbing.” The proper size pump and pipe diameter are extremely important for the aesthetics of a water feature. More importantly, an efficient circulation system keeps the water moving and provides the necessary oxygen levels for healthy fish and plants.

Proper Filtration System includes the use of both a biological and a mechanical filter. A biological filter provides surface area for beneficial bacteria to colonize and remove excess nutrients from the water. A mechanical filter will not only pre-filter the water and house the pump; it will also skim debris from the water’s surface to prevent the accumulation of organic materials on the pond floor.

Fish are an integral part of any ecosystem. Unfortunately, fish are often seen as creating a maintenance nightmare. Contrary to popular belief, fish will actually reduce pond maintenance, as they graze on string algae and bottom feed from the pond floor.

Aquatic Plants are Mother Nature’s true filters. Plants are great for adding character to a pond by providing color and texture, but from a filtration perspective, they’re second to none. Thriving from the excess nutrients in a pond and depriving algae of its food source, the aquatic plants in a water garden, given proper coverage, are critical for the overall health of the ecosystem.

Rocks, Gravel, and Bacteria have been a controversial element in the hobby for many years. Many enthusiasts have steered away from rocks and gravel out of fear that their system will become a maintenance nightmare. On the contrary, rocks and gravel will not only make your pond look more natural, they will also protect pond liners from UV light degradation and they provide tremendous surface area for beneficial bacteria to break down excess nutrients in the water and dissolved organic debris on the pond floor.

Having all these things in place makes all the difference in the health and success of your water garden. Use them and work with Mother Nature, not against her, for a chemical-free wonderland of water! The truth is that most people opt for the ecosystem way of water gardening because it’s easier and it just makes sense. A low-maintenance ecosystem pond provides you with more free time to enjoy friends and family … while gathered around your pond, of course!

Pond Winterization – Part II


Warning: Slow-Moving Streams

There is nothing more breathtaking than a waterfall covered with ice formations and snow during the winter. You must, however, be careful with ponds that have long or slow-moving streams. In such cases, ice dams can form and divert water over the liner.

A waterfall in the winter

Will the filters and pipes crack?

Most good filters are constructed out of rotational-molded polyethylene, and are designed to bow and bend with the freezing and thawing effects of winter. The PVC flex pipe is reinforced and will not crack unless water is left in the pipe over the winter and allowed to freeze. If you decide to keep the pump running all winter long, there will still be a constant flow of water traveling through the pipe, and the moving water will not freeze. If you decide to turn the system off for the winter, most of the water in the pipe will drain back into the pond when the circulation system is removed.

What should be done with the pump once the system is shut down?

Remove the pump from the system and store it in a frost-free location, ideally submerged in a bucket of water. The water around the pump housing will prevent the seals on the pump from drying and cracking. Since most submersible pumps are oil-filled, it is not suggested to let the water freeze solid.

Tip: To extend the life of the pump, it is suggested to clear the impeller shaft free of any debris before winter storage. It is also beneficial to spin the impeller a couple of turns by hand before turning it on in the spring. This will prevent any corrosion or debris from seizing the impeller and interrupting proper pump function.

What about the filter?

When preparing the pond for winter, remove the filtration media and rinse it down. It is recommended to store any such media in a frost-free location like a garage or shed. If left over the winter, all of the filtration media may freeze into a solid block, causing unnecessary delays during the spring clean-out.

What about the fish? Will they be okay?

Ornamental fish will do just fine in two feet of water, as long as some form of oxygenation is provided, and a hole is kept in the ice to allow the escape of harmful gases. It’s recommended to place the waterfall pump in a basket, bucket, or pump sock and surround the intake of the pump with stones to prevent clogging. Place the pump on the second or third shelf of the pond so the surface water is broken by the aeration. The agitation from the pump will prevent freezing and provide oxygen.

A pond de-icer

The Bottom Line

The bottom line for winterization is maintenance. Roughly 70 percent of pond owners in the colder climates decide to shut down their system because they don’t enjoy tending to their water garden during the bitter months of the winter. The aesthetic rewards of the “winter pond” are absolutely worthwhile, so by all means, don’t be afraid to keep the system running as long as possible. Shutting down a pond during the winter is also an option. Just be sure you take precautionary measures to preserve fish, plant, and pump life.

Pond Winterization – Part I


One of my water features

Let me start off by saying that winterization is not necessary for all ponds. Here in WA where I live, we leave our ponds running all year. Climate is a big factor when determining whether a pond has a real need for such seasonal maintenance. Debris cleanup from the fall may be inevitable in any part of the country, but only ponds that experience ice-cover over long periods of time will require winterization. 

 

When should pond winterization be done?Winter preparation should be started after the trees have ceased dropping their leaves in the late fall. Properly winterizing a pond at this time of year will make it easier for an annual clean-out the following spring. 

What should be done for ponds with heavy tree cover? 

Since a mechanical skimmer filter won’t catch all of the surface debris, and not all ponds have a skimmer filter, the use of a net may be necessary to remove the leaves and organics left in the pond during the fall. Debris left to rot in the pond will eventually decompose, producing gases that can be harmful to the fish. Physically removing the leaves and sticks from the pond will make a spring clean-out easier, and may even save the lives of a few dormant fish. 

Ponds surrounded by thick trees may require more maintenance during the fall, when the trees lose the majority of their leaves. Sometimes a net can be placed over the pond to keep leaves out. Be sure to check the pond’s debris net or basket daily during this time of the year to ensure the system functions properly. 

What about the plants? 

Cutting back plant material in the fall will prevent organic debris from decomposing in the water over the winter. Hardy bog and marginal plants should have all of the dead leaves and foliage trimmed down to 2″ above water level, and hardy lily leaves and stems should be cut back, leaving approximately 2-3″ at the base of the plant. Tropical plants can be brought inside for winter, or treated as annuals and replaced each season.

Tip: The ThermoPlanter is a great way to overwinter tropicals and lilies.

My pond running during the winter

Can a pond run throughout the entire winter? 

  

Maintenance is usually the determining factor in whether or not a pond owner keeps their pump running in the winter. The primary maintenance responsibility at this time is to make sure there is enough water for the pump(s) to operate properly. 

During the winter months, the usual water supply options are not available. Outdoor water spigots and automatic water fill valves should be turned off to prevent pipes from freezing and cracking. Therefore, pond owners who run their systems during the winter will have to find an alternate water source to replenish their pond. Water can be supplied via a hose run from inside the house or by making multiple trips with a five-gallon bucket. Generally speaking, it’s not uncommon to have to go out a few times a month during the winter to “top-off” the pond. 

Won’t the waterfall freeze solid? 

Pump size is important when determining a waterfall’s ability to operate during the winter. A pump that provides at least 2,000 gph can be operated throughout the winter without a problem, as long as it runs continuously.  Moving water will usually keep a hole open in the ice around the waterfalls and in front of the circulation system. However, repeated days in sub-zero temperatures may lead to excessive ice build-up and can cause the system to operate improperly. If the flow of water into the circulation system is unable to keep up with the pump because of ice build-up, it may be necessary to shut the system down. The system can be run again once the ice is melted and normal water flow is restored. 

Tip: If the pump is turned off during a heavy freeze, be sure to remove any backflow obstacles from the circulation system. Otherwise, the remaining water will freeze solid, and although this may not hurt flexible PVC pipe, ice may remain into the spring, preventing the start-up of the pond.